Review: Parish Foods & Goods

Ahhhh….It feels damn good to be back in town. I have had a long and decidedly AWESOME 2 weeks. First Costa Rica, then immediately off to New Orleans for work. Fortunately, my “work” had a hell of a lot more “play” to it, and I stayed right in the heart of the French Quarter on Bourbon Street.

As of Monday night, my liver is still not speaking to me.

What better way to get back into the swing of things, after the week that I have had, than to FINALLY write my post on Atlanta’s New Orleans inspired Parish Foods & Goods?

PARISH_Logo

Some of you might remember that I got all excited about the Ibérkshirco pork that showed up at there back in December. Those that don’t know what I’m talking about will want to read my post on it, as I won’t be re-hashing the Ibérkshirco story here. I know, I know….that was a month and a half ago. Well, despite what my lack of a follow up post might suggest, I actually made it down there that night and I BARELY got my hands on that pork.

Why the delay? I distract easily …rampant ADD and the desire to provide you with some pretty pictures to enjoy while you read caused me to put it off. Thankfully, even though my iPhone couldn’t handle the low light that evening, my buddy with Concentrics (or should I say Boudreau?) hooked me up with a few pics that I could use instead.

So, for those of you that just scan my longer paragraphs: I didn’t take these pictures.

I should probably start the actual review with some good ole fashioned “full disclosure”. I have a few friends that work at Concentrics, one of them at Parish, and occasionally while eating there we get treated to a free appetizer or drink. This started long before I began writing a blog, so there was no “blogger favoritism” going on. They also know me well enough to know that if they treated us to a sub-par meal, I’d call them on it.

I have always loved the decor at Parish. I think that they put a great spin on the whole New Orleans thing…it is warm and distinctly NOLA, but without being gaudy. With lots of exposed brick, the interior is….oh hell, I don’t have the energy to pretend to know interior design…I dig their style, and I’m betting you will to.

PARISH Restaurant interior 13

Though this review will focus on a single night, I have probably been 4 times since they opened in May, 2008. And I’ve noticed that it seems like they are dialing the “Cajun” thing back and the southern up a little. It was at a 9, now it is more like a 7, and I personally think it was a good move. I’d assume that this transition began with the pickup of current Chef Nick Melvin in March, ’09.

Melvin, a New Orleans native and Concentrics alumni (Murphy’s/Tap/Room At Twelve), has, in a lot of ways, made Parish’s menu MORE authentic while making is less stereotypically “New Orleans” than it felt in their earliest days. No matter how creole it is, New Orleans is also still southern, and there is more to it than gumbo, jambalaya, oysters, and hurricanes. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed the food here on day 1, but I’m glad to see the improved sense of balance that Melvin has brought to the menu. The concept has remained intact, but it feels less like a CONCEPT than it used to.

As we were seated, I immediately asked about the Ibérkshirco pork and it was a good thing that I did. Though it was supposed to be on the menu for 2 nights, by 8:00 PM they had realized it wasn’t going to last the evening. I’d like to take credit for the high demand….but let’s be honest….Kessler posted about it too, sooooo, yeah….

Either way, I ordered that before I even got my water. The last order was taken by 8:30. Whew.

For our appetizers, we got the Seasonal Savory Cheesecake and the Squash and Dumplings.

I’d really enjoyed the last version of their savory cheesecake special that I’d had, and I just couldn’t say no to this one: Pulled pork, sweet potato cheesecake, with a Worcestershire reduction. Yup, I doubled up on the pork. And the pork in this cheesecake, though it wasn’t the Ibérkshirco I’d come for, was fantastic. The pork was tender and the pairing with sweet potato was ideal. I know it isn’t a new flavor combo, but it should be more common.

To those that say that is too much pig for one meal, I say “suck it”.

This isn’t a misnomer; it really is a savory cheesecake. To many, the idea of pork flavored cheesecake sounds either revolting or amazing. But the sweetness is almost non-existent, and you don’t have the conflict with the savory ingredients that you’d expect. I actually didn’t even order this the first time that I ate it. If the fillings of the day sound remotely enticing to you, I highly recommend you try this. So far, they are 2 for 2 with the cheesecakes for me.

At this point, my buddy, who likes to run newer dishes by me when I eat here, appeared at the table with the Squash and Dumplings, and strongly suggested that we try it. That was actually how I got the Savory Cheesecake at my table for the first time last spring. Thanks buddy, you are batting 1000 so far.

Squash and Dumplings

This is a hollowed out maple roasted acorn squash filled with buttermilk parmesan dumplings and topped with toasted pecan sage pesto. Hot damn…it was the perfect comfort food for the cold and icy night we’d braved to drive there. The combination of the maple squash, fluffy cheese dumplings, and buttery toasted pecan flavor in the pesto was fabulous. Seriously…can’t you just FEEL your stomach getting warmer thinking about that in your mouth? We ate the whole damn thing, squash and all.

Finally, it was time for our famed Ibérkshirco pork to arrive. Just for kicks, I’ll show you what MY picutres turned out like.

Thank GOD I got a real camera since then....

Thank GOD I got a real camera since then....

Now do you see why I didn’t want to use any of my own pictures from that night? That is the food porn equivalent of sex with the lights off- just not as much fun.

Ohhhhh, that sweet, sweet pork. This was totally worth the hype, and not just because I hate to be wrong. There were 2 things that I loved about this dish, so I’ll tackle them one at a time.

First- The Ibérkshirco:

Despite my passionate love affair with pork, having never had Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (Ibérico Ham), I couldn’t really wrap my head around how different this pork could really be. Now I totally get it. The nutty flavor that the pigs pick up from their acorn/chestnut diet really jumps out at you, and wasn’t something that Melvin could have easily cooked into the meat himself. In addition to being a top-tier piece of pork, the flavor was sweetly unique, and I will honestly go WAY out of my way to eat at any restaurant that I know is serving it from now on.

Second – The preparation:

Even the best meat can be ruined by a moron in the kitchen, and Melvin definitely respected his ingredient. The pork was served on a bed of Noring Farms garlic braised mustard greens with a sherry and pork reduction, alongside a cast-iron pan of breaded Hakurei turnips and chestnut gratin. Everything on the plate complemented the sweet/nutty flavor of the pork without coming close to overpowering it. The greens had a great vinegary bite and the sweetness of the reduction balanced that acid perfectly. It stood up to the pork without trying to hold it up.

Melvin did a damn good job of letting the pork stand on its own, which is one of my favorite things a good chef will do. When you have something as amazing as pork like this, it would be arrogant to try to outshine it by overpowering it.

Though the Ibérkshirco was great, and I wish that everyone had the chance to try it, it wouldn’t have been worth a damn if the guys at Parish didn’t know what they are doing. And after tasting this dish, and the cheesecake, I will have a hard time passing up getting at least SOME of Melvin’s pork the next time that I go, Ibérkshirco or not.

If you have never tried Parish, I’d strongly encourage getting them onto your to-do list. And even if you aren’t into pork (in which case I’m shocked you read my blog) I think you’d be hard pressed not to find something here that you will love.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t read your blog because of all the pork goodness. I read your blog because you have the guts to say about a very expensive cut of meat, “That’s not nearly as good as a bone in ribeye!”

    Of course, pork goodness helps *^^*.

    FnS.

    • Posted January 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Haha. Thanks! I try to speak the truth. And let’s be honest….if you love steak, you should know better than to order a filet!

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